Russian mainstream media often relies on unnamed social media users and self-proclaimed experts, without fact-checking any of their claims. Russia Today found someone claiming to be “Carlos,” an alleged Spaniard, working as an air traffic controller in Kyiv’s international airport, Borispol. Without ever fully identifying himself, “Carlos” Tweeted in Spanish that Ukrainian jets were following the passenger plane and shot it down. Numerous prominent news outlets picked up this ridiculous story, including television channel Russia 24, the Defense Ministry’s Zvezda channel, Rossiiskaya Gazeta and Komsomolskaya Pravda.
No one found it suspicious that a foreigner would be working in a Ukrainian airport and live-Tweeting ridiculous claims, while not speaking either Russian, Ukrainian or English languages (Russia Today had to interview him in Spanish). Minimal fact-checking would have revealed that Ukrainian authorities do not hire non-citizens of Ukraine as airport dispatchers, or even accept them for training as such. As usual, Russia Today was unperturbed by these minor details. On July 17, 2014 Russia Today acknowledged that the unidentified “Carlos” ran a fake Twitter account, which had been deleted. Two days later, on July 19, 2014, Russia Today again cited “Carlos” as their primary source in another article.